Strawberry sculpture puts signature feature in new plaza


Renovating Strawberry Plaza may not be a piece of cake, but the topping is nearly complete – and it looks a lot like a strawberry.
The strawberry-shaped water fountain for the park, designed by Chris Kopp, was revealed during the Academy Square gazebo’s grand opening Sept. 13.
“We’re quite excited it is the marquee piece of the new park, and I suspect it will become an iconic symbol for the community,” said Gary Marks, city manager.
Kopp, the owner of Chris Kopp Metalworks and Atomic Speed & Supply in Lebanon, makes and repairs body components for vintage and historic race cars and warbird airplanes. But he’s also created wind chimes and copper fountains for private collections.
“This is the largest and most public thing I’ve ever done in regards to art or sculptures,” Kopp said about the strawberry.
Kopp, along with his wife Jeanne Callahan, moved from Denver, Colo. to Lebanon last December.
“Our original intent was to pick the small-town USA because of the community,” Kopp said. “When you live in a big city you lose that; you’re just someone else.”
When he walks to work every morning and back home later in the day, he sees the same people. The guy sitting on the park bench, the husband and wife closing down their store; they all say hello to each other.
“There’s this personal connection, and I like that,” Kopp said. “I think we don’t have enough of that, and I think that’s the best thing here.”
Shortly after they arrived in Lebanon, Marks asked Kopp whether he’d be interested in bidding on the strawberry sculpture project.
“It was just good fortune that Chris Kopp moved to town about that time,” Marks said. “When we understood what his kind of work was, we realized he was the guy.”
The original design, mocked up by Stangeland and Associates, shows a geometric-shaped strawberry, similar to a diamond shape, but Kopp said he had a different idea.
He made a rough model of the original design and one of a more rounded version. He slid them across the table to Marks, who agreed the rounded version looked best.
Kopp estimates it took about 150 to 200 hours to build the strawberry, which measures 48 inches high with a 40-inch diameter. He started with 14 pieces of aluminum that he shaped, hammered and welded, then had it powder coated over at Oregon Powder Coating. Divets with quarter-inch holes represent the seeds, through which an ambient light will shine at night.
Water will be pumped up through the center of the sculpture, flow out from under the leaf and cascade over the strawberry. The strawberry sculpture will be the centerpiece of the park, surrounded by grass and cement seating areas.
Located downtown between Conversion Brewing and Hollywood Studios, Strawberry Plaza is expected to be completed in time for the 2017 Strawberry Festival.
“We’re acting as our own general contractor, with the idea we’ll save some money doing that,” Marks said. “So it may be several months from now before we get it done, but we’re going to save quite a bit of money doing it that way.”
Residents have expressed concern from misinformation that funding for the park is coming out of system development charges, he added. People living in Lebanon are not paying for the new park.
“It’s actually coming from our new hotel tax, so the people who are visiting us are paying for Strawberry Plaza,” Marks said.
With Boulder Falls Inn now established, the city’s hotel tax revenue has quadrupled, he said. By state law, that money has to be spent on projects and initiatives that promote tourism in Lebanon, including Strawberry Plaza.
The park will include a patio for Conversion Brewing patrons, a stage for live performances, and a kiosk celebrating the history of Lebanon. The totem pole originally placed in the park is being restored by Marks and will be returned to Strawberry Plaza, as well.
Local artists will have a chance to display their work on the plaza’s walls after an art commission is established by the city.
The public is welcome to visit Atomic Supply, on the corner of Main and Maple streets, to view the strawberry up close.

By Sarah Brown
For Lebanon Local